Expert in all things cultural with big aspirations, Gregory Surh, Optimization Coordinator of Daily Steak.
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about where you’re from, and what you’ve been up to since before Daily Steak?
Well, I was born in Redwood City and I grew up in San Carlos, so I’ve basically been in Bay Area for pretty much my entire life. I went to the University of Colorado for my undergraduate studies, getting a double major in General Humanities and English (I wanted to be an English teacher at the time!). I went on to complete a 1-year masters program at the University of Chicago, majoring in something that no one has really heard of! It’s called cultural policy. That’s my thing. I’m very very proud of this particular track. I got an internship as a curatorial assistant at the Chicago History Museum, and then became a private architectural history tour guide for a few months. Now I’m back in the Bay Area and am working with Daily Steak!
How did you really get started with Daily Steak?
It’s really interesting, actually! I knew Reza, who was interning for Nick at the time. Reza knew I was looking for work, so he, without my knowledge, found my resume and sent it to Nick. He also sent over a brief promotional video of the city of Chicago I posted on YouTube during my time as a tour guide. The next thing I know is, I get a call from Nick, who tells me, “So your friend Reza sent me your resume, and I absolutely love sound of your voice!”. So Nick decided to bring me onboard to make audio content for the app! I’m quite surprised Nick brought me on board! I’m a humanities major, not a techie!
Well, we’re glad to have you on board! So you were originally going to make audio content. I know you’re also doing some marketing and design work. What exactly does your current position entail?
Well, I’m working with 3 different parts right now. I’m part of marketing, working with [Kimberly], and looking at the quantitative data and trying to extrapolate trends and hypothesis. I am also currently writing blog posts while doing some SEO practices. I work with AJ, and am in the process of learning how to incorporate that information into Graphic Design, producing infographics for the website. The last part is working with Katy, who is the content manager. I produce and edit audio and written content, primarily through voice-over narration and broadcast recordings. Maybe I’ll eventually be the “voice of app”! Since my time here started, I’ve been wearing multiple hats, and working with 3 seemingly separate departments. Now I’m trying to build this interesting niche, this space that traverses between these different responsibilities. But I’m definitely having a lot of fun so far! I’m thinking about putting my title on my business card in the future, and being able to flash it around. It will be interesting to see how people react to it!
Those 3 departments do seem very different! Is there one aspect you like more than the others?
Thats a hard one. I actually really enjoy the writing; I’m having lots of fun with it!
Tell us about your hobbies!
Back then, I was really into distance running! A LOT actually! Right now, I’m a big fan of museums, arts, cultural events, such as concerts, theaters, museums, films. It’s my artsy humanities side coming out!
I can tell you’re definitely passionate about culture. You mentioned museums more than once! What’s your favorite museum?
It would definitely have to be the Smithsonian Institution, because of the quality of their exhibits. It’s my dream location to work within 10 years, or when I have lots of experience under my belt. You might ask me what cultural policy is. This place defines cultural policy, because it’s a cultural organization, a collection of museums, and a research center, but also a political organization, where workers are often federal employees and funding comes from the federal government. It’s also part of the national archives! It’s the perfect mix of public policy and culture!
Did you always know you wanted to work with museums?
Well, I originally planned to get a Phd and be a literature professor. But during the 9 months masters program, I got more interested in “field work.” I couldn’t sit in lecture halls and I didn’t like idea of completing masters without ever leaving the grounds of the university. I switched paths when I met the executive director of an organization called The Cultural Policy Center. She later became my boss and thesis advisor, and encouraged me to get off campus and get out into the field. I ended up doing a lot of my work at cultural organizations and museums in Chicago, and even made a trip to the Smithsonian Institution during spring break to compete thesis work, which was great!
That’s where my switch came. During my field of research, I noticed that that [cultural organizations and museums] are becoming a lot more technical, a lot more digital. Computer skills and hard science skills are becoming very valued at these organizations! So following my grad school experience and internships, that’s when I figured I needed to get more actual technical skills. I have a theoretical and conceptual background at a very high level, and now I need to start building my technical skills alongside my humanities skills.
I know you’ve been doing most of the interviewing. How have you been liking getting to know everyone on a deeper level?
It feels great! I’m talking with Octavio and Mikey and Illahi, they’re all computer science guys! It’s cool to meet that type of connection. We all have different backgrounds, but we’re still coming together on this project.
I’ve noticed you’ve been giving everyone a nickname!
You’re going to think i’m the biggest nerd in the world! I like my computer games and my fantasy genre (chuckles). I saw the “heros wanted” post on the website, so my mind automatically flashed to the Fellowship of the Ring, and of course, World of Warcraft! Of course, Joseph Campbell’s A Hero of a Thousand Faces comes into play as well. So I wanted to create this series of different archetypes banding together on this adventure, this great undertaking. I’m glad you can’t see my giant hand gestures on screen, but I love it!
So, what’s next for you?
Well, my immediate steps are to focus on making compelling content, because the only way to market something is to have the best content. As we move further into the public sphere, one of my goals is to expand the position to include Public Relations and Engagement.
My long term goal is to go back to the museum and cultural world. The jobs I’m looking for require marketing, content development, professional blogging, and technical skills (though not necessarily coding). Human resources and fundraising are noble pursuits among the nonprofit and cultural world, but it’s not my calling. I like to do stuff; I like to make stuff! I just really want to immerse myself in the cultural world.
You’re well on your way to the Smithsonian Institution! Keep up the good work!